I just read a press release about a scheme in London to introduce bike hire parks at 300m intervals around the city, hot on the heels of Paris, which recently unveiled 10,000 bikes at 750 points around the capital to unanimous success. The aim is to have one in ten trips in London made by bike, which will tie in with a Legible London signage system to encourage people to walk – apparently fifty per cent of tube journeys in London are quicker by foot.
Barcelona has started something similar, and judging from the amount of red and white stork-like bikes flitting about, it seems to have proved just as popular. In fact, it’s so successful that they need to build more bike parks in the popular spots, as finding a parking slot to return your bike can be tricky. Another teething problem is in the electronic parking slots themselves, some of which aren’t locking the bikes properly. Still, I’m sure these niggles will be sorted out, and it’s certainly encouraging to see it being used so wholeheartedly and effectively.
In France, the bikes cost about a Euro an hour. In Barcelona, the bikes are free for the first 30 minutes – ample time to get around the city. You then have a twenty minute period before being able to pick up another bike – easily taken up by shopping, or a stroll down the Ramblas. If you go over your 30 minute allocation, there’s a small fee that’s knocked off your credit card. It would be perfect for tourists, who could mix and match their forrays around the city, but for the fact that you also need to sign up to the scheme – around 20-30 Euros a year.
Getting a bike is simple. Swipe your card, which releases one of the bikes from the pound.
Grab your wheels and go for a spin. At the end of the ride, drop it back in its plug, which locks it in place, at any of the bike parks dotted about.
The bikes are sturdy, funky, practical little things, with an adjustable saddle, mudguards, tough Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres and a simple three speed hub gear. There are LED lights for the night too, though they didn’t all seem to be working.
Barcelona is surprisingly bike friendly, with plenty of bikes lanes and some great routes around the harbour and along the beachfront for a sunset amble.